Tuesday 16 December 2014

Northpole (2014)

Another Christmas, another failing magical system. When will Santa and his elves realise that building a business on a foundation that requires consistent levels of positivity and suspension of disbelief is no way to maintain steady growth without legitimate concerns about the stability of the entire infrastructure? The answer would seem to be never.

This time around it is up to an elf named Clementine (Bailee Madison) to come up with a plan to save Christmas. She does this by encouraging a boy named Kevin (Max Charles) to whip up some Christmas spirit in his new hometown. That's easier said than done. The town isn't even going to have a tree-lighting ceremony this year, as it's apparently too expensive and unappreciated. Kevin's mother, Chelsea (Tiffani Thiessen), is reporting on the whole situation for a local newspaper. She may end up contributing to the fading Christmas spirit, but her pessimism it balanced out by the optimism of Ryan (Kevin's teacher, played by Josh Hopkins).

Poor Bailee Madison. This is far from the worst Christmas TV-movie that I've seen, but it's a shame to see her stuck in such fare after a decent performance in Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark and a scene-stealing turn in Just Go With It. She's perfectly fine in this, all Christmas cheer and earnestness, but I hope this is just a minor diversion on her way to some meatier roles further along the line. Young Charles is likable enough as the lad struggling to fit in to his new surroundings, and then subsequently focusing on a good cause to save a Christmas tradition, and Thiessen and Hopkins are both good as the adults who view his behaviour from different perspectives. Robert Wagner and Jill St. John pop up for a minute or two, playing Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, respectively, and I'm not denying that I smiled when they appeared onscreen.

The direction from Douglas Barr may be as pedestrian as you can get, and the script from Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer isn't exactly full of magic moments, but I must admit that they managed to invest the material with a sense of fun. A sense of fun is something often forgotten about, even in the world of the Christmas-themed TV movie. You'll always get moral lessons, of course, and there will usually be snow, plenty of cocoa, and often a character given the role of Scrooge. You'll see gifts under large Christmas trees, roaring log fires, and maybe even an elf or two. Fun, however, can be a bit harder to find, which is a great shame. Especially when it should be the easiest ingredient to mix in to any festive treat.



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